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Importance of low carbohydrate diets in diabetes management

Authors Hall R, Parry Strong A, Krebs J

Received 7 July 2015

Accepted for publication 14 October 2015

Published 17 March 2016 Volume 2016:8 Pages 9—19

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/NDS.S74719

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Elizabeth Steels

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Gary Johanning


Rosemary M Hall, Amber Parry Strong, Jeremy D Krebs

Centre for Endocrine, Diabetes and Obesity Research, Capital and Coast District Health Board, Wellington, New Zealand

Abstract: Dietary strategies are fundamental in the management of diabetes. Historically, strict dietary control with a low carbohydrate diet was the only treatment option. With increasingly effective medications, the importance of dietary change decreased. Recommendations focused on reducing dietary fat to prevent atherosclerotic disease, with decreasing emphasis on the amount and quality of carbohydrate. As the prevalence of obesity and diabetes escalates, attention has returned to the macronutrient composition of the diet. Very low carbohydrate diets (VLCD's) have demonstrated effective initial weight loss and improvement in glycemic control, but difficult long-term acceptability and worsening lipid profile. Modifications to the very low carbohydrate (VLC) have included limiting saturated fat and increasing carbohydrate (CHO) and protein. Reducing saturated fat appears pivotal in reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and may mitigate adverse effects of traditional VLCD's. Increased dietary protein enhances satiety, reduces energy intake, and improves glycemic homeostasis, but without sustained improvements in glycemic control or cardiovascular risk over and above the effect of weight loss. Additionally, recent studies in type 1 diabetes mellitus suggest promising benefits to diabetes control with low carbohydrate diets, without concerning effects on ketosis or hypoglycemia. Dietary patterns may highlight pertinent associations. For example, Mediterranean-style and paleolithic-type diets, low in fat and carbohydrate, are associated with reduced body weight and improved glycemic and cardiovascular outcomes in type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). A feature of these dietary patterns is low refined CHO and sugar and higher fiber, and it is possible that increasing sugar consumption is having a substantial effect on global escalations in obesity and T2DM. Dietary recommendations in type 1 diabetes and T2DM are changing. Dietary CHO is unquestionably important, but long-term acceptability of any diet is critical to sustain improvements in health benefits. Personalized dietary management, using a variety of dietary approaches, may be the key to optimal diabetes outcomes.

Keywords: low carbohydrate diets, type 2 diabetes, dietary intervention studies, type 1 diabetes, paleo nutrition

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